BZBI, where you belong

Professional Staff

    Harvey Friedrich, Interim Executive Director

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    Harvey Friedrich received his Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Temple University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Philadelphia University. He spent the first half of his working life as a social worker in inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment facilities and transitioned to synagogue management in 1996.

    He spent several years as the Executive Director of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood and spent the past twenty years as the Executive Director of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park. There, he helped the Congregation in having its iconic building named a National Historic Landmark, and managed many of the details of its preservation as a historic site. He was actively involved in helping the Congregation with several major fund raising programs, and closely managed its annual appeal program. He retired from that position in March 2019.

    With an ongoing commitment to assisting people in need, he serves as Board Chairman of the Riverview Home, a Philadelphia County operated personal care facility. He was pleased to be able to assist BZBI as its Interim Executive Director as it searches for a permanent replacement for its past director.


    Rebecca Krasner, Community Engagement Specialist

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    Rebecca Krasner is an explorer. She loves people and their stories. Talking over a shabbat meal, creating art with a toddler, or providing a listening Rebecca wants to know you and your Jewish journey.

    Before working to deepen connections within our BZBI community and beyond our synagogue walls, Rebecca has worked in many different fields, all focused upon education and self exploration. Immediately before working at BZBI Rebecca was the Midwest Regional Director for Moving Traditions – a national programs whose mission is to “embolden teens by fostering self-discovery, challenging sexism, and inspiring a commitment to Jewish life and learning.. Rebecca has also run educational programs in numerous art Museums for both children and teachers, and worked as a doula and childbirth educator. Rebecca and Rabbi Abe Friedman are on a parenting adventure raising Odelia, Azzi, and Yonah a few blocks from BZBI.

    Please come by my office and say hello. I am eager to know you.


    Leslee Schwartz, Accounts Specialist

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    Leslee Schwartz received her Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Education from Arcadia University.  She grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and recently moved back to Philadelphia from Bergen County, New Jersey. Leslee is the proud Aunt of 3 nieces and 2 nephews, and just completed an 18-month Adult B’Nai Mitzvah Program. She is very excited to be a part of the BZBI community.


    Rabbi Max Nissen, Director of Youth and Family Education

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    Rabbi Max Nissen received rabbinic ordination and an MA in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He graduated from Colgate University with his BA in International Relations, and studied abroad at the University of Haifa. Rabbi Max grew up in the Washington, DC area, and now lives outside Philadelphia with his wife Joy and their daughter Ariella.

    Rabbi Max comes to BZBI from Congregation Beth El (Bethesda, MD), where he served as the Assistant Education Director and head of the Upper School. Immediately before beginning his tenure at Beth El, Rabbi Max completed his student teaching in the high school Jewish History and Jewish Text departments at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (Rockville, MD). He also served as the rabbinic intern at the Park Slope Jewish Center (Brooklyn, New York) and as the rabbinic leader of Fitzgerald Hebrew Congregation (Fitzgerald, GA). Whether working in synagogues, Jewish schools, at camp and in other settings, Rabbi Max approaches every experience as an opportunity for connection and growth. He believes in empowering his students and their families, partnering with them to create meaningful Jewish experiences that create community, foster personal growth and contribute to a better world.


    Risa Young, Director of Early Childhood Education

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    Risa Young is the Director of Early Childhood Education at BZBI and a warm, creative, and dynamic leader with over 30 years of experience in early childhood education. Originally from Mt. Carmel, PA., Risa resided in New York City, where she spent 28 years leading high-quality educational programs for children and families. She has held executive positions in several prominent organizations including Children’s Aid Society, Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, Sunset Bay Community Services, and Third Street Music School. She was a contributing writer for Scholastic’s Early Childhood Today and Parent & Child magazines and a member of the Early Childhood Strategic Group, a professional consortium that helped to influence and shape early care and education policy in New York City. Most recently, Risa has been Director of Early Childhood Programs at the JCC of San Francisco, overseeing three Reggio Emilia- inspired preschools. Prior to moving to San Francisco, Risa and her husband, Roland, lived in Tel Aviv, where their daughter, Lena, currently lives.

    Risa received her M.A. in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from New York University, and a B.F.A. from University of the Arts.  Risa looks forward to returning to Philadelphia and contributing to the growth, development, and success of BZBI’s early education program.


    Phyllis Kramer, Temple Administrator

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